35mm big enough for quality prints?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Lol999, Dec 18, 2007.

  1. Lol999

    Lol999 Member

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    Hi, got a question about 35mm film format. I currently use a Nikon F3 and assorted Nikkor glass in addition to a Bessa L I just purchased for street photography. What with a prolonged period of bad technique and the current climate of hysteria I'm thinking of chucking street work and moving into more "artistic" ventures, landscapes, architecture etc. My question is, if mounted on a tripod is my gear good enough to make decent prints, to a reasonable size from? I don't particularly want to sell the lot and invest in medium format unless I have to. If 35mm is good enough what B&W film would you reccommend?

    Thanks, Lol
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Define good enough and big enough. Reality is you're the ony one who can make those choices. Personally I find 35mm limited when compared to MF. But that doesn't mean you can't make good prints with 35mm. Just they'll look like 35mm prints.
     
  3. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    You can make a really nice 11X14 and up to 16X20 with most slow B&W films such as Pan F, Delta or Tmax 100. Chosing 35mm vs. M/F or L/F is not just about film size. A view camera or older tech/press camera like a Hoseman has prespecitve control, tilt, lift and swing.
     
  4. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Morning, Lol999,

    It depends partly on your definition of "reasonable size." My own view is that 35mm gear, used properly and with good processing technique, can produce excellent prints up to 8 x 10 and good prints up to 11 x 14. A lot depends on how tolerant you are of grain. To me, it always seems like work to get high-quality prints, especially 8 x 10 or larger, from 35mm. With 6 x 7 negatives, the image just seems to fall onto the paper with minimal effort; that's even more the case with LF. I guess there's no free lunch: either you have the ease and flexibility of 35mm accompanied by lots of care and effort in the darkroom, or you have the weight, effort, and awkwardness of LF offset by easier darkroom work.

    Konical
     
  5. bwakel

    bwakel Member

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    As others have said, it depends what you mean! Black and white is quite different to colour. Shooting colour I wouldn't dream of using less than medium format but the sort of images I print in black and white generally benefit from grain and the slightly soft nature of a bigger enlargement.

    I generally don't go beyond 9.5x12 for 35mm but take a look at the work of Eddie Ephraums who, for many years, used a Nikon FM2 and always printed at 16x20. His images look fantastic with pronounced grain. He actually used 35mm because he liked the grainy appearance of his large prints.

    Barry
     
  6. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council

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    Modern films look pretty good, even when enlarged from 35mm. The difference is even more striking in C-41, due to the lack of grain and amazing technology Kodak and Fuji have built into their colour products.

    I get pretty nice 11x14 out of Tri-X 400 in XTOL, but I can also get very nice stuff from Efke in Rodinal. The grain varies a lot between the two, but both will look good in their own way.

    What is important when you print from a small negative is to get proper contrast. Too many people end up with flat, ugly stuff when they enlarge a lot. You need to get proper exposure, development, proper paper grade, a good paper developer, know how to dodge and burn, etc.

    If your goal is to get the smooth tones of MF or LF, forget about it, it just won't happen. But you can make excellent full-scale prints if you set your heart to it.
     
  7. eric

    eric Member

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    I print 16x20's from 35mm all the time. Usually full frame 35mm. Most of the film I use is 400 speed shot at 200, processed d76/1:1
     
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    With properly exposed C41 film, good composition and the usual players, I have printed 24" X 36" from 135. Yes, if you get 6 inches away from the surface, you will see some grain. From a few feet away, the prints look stunning.

    Steve
     
  9. Lol999

    Lol999 Member

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    Thanks everyone for your replies and guidance it gives me hope for my hobby/obsession! Health issues make it difficult for me to put the miles in for the type of candid street stuff I like to do so with a bit of tailoring of style and this new outlet I can satisfy my need to burn film.
    On a side note I don't develop or print my own film, can anyone reccommend a decent lab in the UK for one off prints if I take something nice?

    Cheers, Lol
     
  10. Jerry Basierbe

    Jerry Basierbe Member

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  11. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I just want to say - take a look at the prints made from the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. It's 35mm work, and if you can find a print of his work you will be dumbfounded by the quality of it.
    Quality is a word loaded with interpretation. I love grain and have enlarged my Tri-X negatives to 11x14 inch size and I'm very happy with the prints. I have seen stunning prints in 20x24 from 35mm originals (Tri-X in D76). It takes a lot of practice to print that large with good results, but with the right work flow and technique in every step of the creation of the work, you can indeed print large from 35mm in a soul satisfying way.
    It's kind of like listening to music via a really good turntable and LPs. It can and will sometimes surpass the sound of the best digital music players, and when you listen you don't pay attention to things like surface noise, you just marvel at the musicality and how alive the music sounds. Same as a Cartier-Bresson print. Trust me, you will not be looking at the grain.
    With that said, it's probably easier to make a good print from a medium- or large-format negative. You just have to get along with what you think is good enough.
    - Thomas
     
  12. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council

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    It's a "Pierre Gassman print," to be exact.
     
  13. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I know he didn't print his own work, but I don't think it matters since it's the quality of them that is relevant.

    - Thomas
     
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  15. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council

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    Well, no, it's not relevant to his qualities as an artist (unless somebody want to open that can of worms), but you know, Redde Caesari quae sunt Caesaris...
     
  16. catem

    catem Member

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    Absolutely you can feel confident working in 35mm. Remember it's the picture itself - what it's saying, what it means, whether it works - that is the important thing - and...how long is piece of string? For something that goes with the grain, where the grain enhances the image, you can purposefully choose 35mm over larger format. Different film, different quality, different outcome. you can choose a fine grain image and print comfortably up to 12 x 16 and beyond (I comfortably print up to 16 x20, both 35mm and medium format - probably would go larger but this is the maximum size I can do easily in my darkroom). Enjoy and experiment, and don't feel you've got to be after something 'better'. You'll find the combinations of film format and film type and print size that appeal to you. There isn't 'better', only 'different'.
     
  17. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Lol. If you don't print and don't intend to print your own work then by the time you get to sizes that are on the margin of good quality from 35mm, you are talking very expensive for lab work. At much above 5x7 lab printing is expensive and would soon outweigh the expense of setting up a small darkroom.

    pentaxuser
     
  18. Lol999

    Lol999 Member

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    Hi pentaxuser, I have the possibility of setting up a darkroom next year when my son moves into his flat. However, at the moment there is no real demand for my prints, probably because of their subject matter being non-commercial. If I did become in a position where people are prepared to pay for a print I just need to be confident that I can send the neg to a good printer and get a decent result. Being on limited income at the moment I don't know if I could afford to run a darkroom. reading some of the magazine articles such as in B&W they take loads of efforts to get where they want to be, and they're experts!

    Cheers, Lol
     
  19. minoltafan

    minoltafan Member

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    This guy does very, very nice work!
     
  20. Allan Swindles

    Allan Swindles Member

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    Lol, IMHO the biggest advantage of medium/large format is in the gradation, particularly noticable in monochrome work. I use OM Zuiko's for 35mm. transparency work with Fuji Velvia 50 which will produce well in magazines. For print work however, I would usually favour a larger format but the important thing is to get out there and shoot pictures, with whatever equipment you have. Only then will you be able to decide.
    I currently use Peak Imaging for the majority of my processing, on your doorstep (Sheffield).
    www.peak-imaging.com

    Regards - Allan.
     
  21. Richard Kelham

    Richard Kelham Member

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    With the camera on a tripod, slow, fine-grained film and good lenses it is perfectly possible to get a decent 16"x12" print from a 35mm negative – provided you can control the processing and printing. The guys writing in B&W magazine take a lot of trouble over their prints because that is often what is needed. If you are totally reliant on a lab for processing and printing you will be unlikely to realise the true quality of the images – and spend a helluva lot of money into the bargain.

    Save your pennies, hire a darkroom if you can, build your own if you can't, and meanwhile spend the money on film. That's my advice.


    Richard
     
  22. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    We are risking you saying "We'll I knew that already" but at the risk of just such a retort, I'd say that relatively few buyers will want pics bigger than say 12x16 or at least not enough of them willing to pay the price for such prints. It sounds as if your aim is to cover the cost to benefit ratio of moving into MF and making pics is a business venture not a hobby which may on occasions produce an income. Bear in mind that few seem to make it as full time landscape photogs selling a range of their own pics.

    Some can do rather well as commission photogs ( usually weddings, portraiture or local newspaper contractors but the last one involves the dreaded d*****l) but I get the impression that this isn't your scene. Others get commissions from English Heritage or the National Trust like Joe Cornish and supplement income by running "photographic holidays". Maybe I belong the "glass half empty" group but I think that if the move to MF and the expense of so doing has to make a return on the investment I'd be in the pessimists group.

    If you feel you owe it to yourself to move up to MF because that realises your potential as a photog and you'll be unfulfilled unless you do then do it but if it's simply a "must have" return on cash investment which you can otherwise ill afford to spend without the guarantee of a return I'd be very wary about the committment.

    pentaxuser
     
  23. Allan Swindles

    Allan Swindles Member

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    Richard, I'd almost agree but if you can't print to that standard ( 'cause that's an art in itself, ) there would be no point. Given the right instructions, a lab technician can produce very good results, may be he/she could even improve on what you had in mind! True it is more expensive, or is it if you get it wrong a couple of times, and how often do we need a 20/16 anyway? As long as it's on the neg. in the first place it can be reproduced as required. As far as 35mm goes I would rather produce top quality 10/8's than inferior larger sizes.
     
  24. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

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    I just had two 30x40 prints made from 35mm negs from a portrait session I did four years ago (before I was shooting MF). The grain is pronounced but pretty, and the prints look stunning from a few feet away. There's a lab quite close to me that does a lot of very large fiber printing, and the price was very reasonable.

    - CJ
     
  25. Bandicoot

    Bandicoot Member

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    Getting good B&W prints from a lab. needs you to give clear instructions, and them to be able to follow them. I've been pretty happy with The Darkroom in Cheltenham for this sort of thing. They aren't cheap.

    Alternatively (heresy alert!) you could think about scanning and inkjet printing. It isn't easy to master, but no more or less so than doing it in the darkroom, just different - and some people have more natural aptitude for one approach and some for the other. Some of the newer fine art inkjet papers produce really good results.


    Peter
     
  26. Lol999

    Lol999 Member

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    Where to start? Okay, I'm going to try Peak Imaging, they're actually about 8 miles from me so I can drop the things in if I want. I do not require a financial return on my investment in gear, which is a good job since it's unlikely to happen, it's a personal perfectionist sort of thing. If I had the time and money i would probably invest in 10x8 gear and pay someone to teach me how to use it, but that's not going to happen. I have sold a couple of prints, one of which was enlarged to A2 which I thought was horrible but the customer loves so that's all that matters!
    As a heretic I do already scan and inkjet print and have, from XP2,produced some not bad 9"x6" prints on decent paper. My thoughts would be to scan and manipulate then print how I envision the picture should look, then send that with the neg to a lab for them to do a "proper" job on. One area I guess I could look at would be ato at least do my own processing thus giving me more control over the outcome. That's probably one for the new year.

    Cheers, Lol